Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

When I think of smoothies, I don’t often consider lemon as a particularly tempting flavor. Lemon in cocktails, muffins, or chicken recipes? Yes, all the way. But lemon in a smoothie? Sounds a little odd. I would think the tangy taste would be a bit too overpowering for a snack as tame as a smoothie–or that putting lemon juice in with dairy would produce something curdled.

Then again, lemon yogurt was always my favorite growing up, and I think we can all agree that lemon sweets are some of the best around. (P.S. I just counted, and just on this blog I have 13 recipes with lemon as their primary flavor.)

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the flavor of lemon–especially when paired with raspberry–in this easy smoothie turned out refreshing and delicious. The sunshiney tartness mixed with that pretty rosy color just stole my heart. And my mouth.

Plus, a lemon raspberry smoothie gave me an excuse to use the candied lemon slices I bought from Trader Joe’s, which I didn’t actually need, but were so cute and appealing I couldn’t resist. (Like so many other things at Trader Joe’s.) Now that the package is open, I guess I’ll have to go and make those other 13 lemon recipes and garnish the heck out of ’em.

Looking for more lemony goodness this winter season? Try some of my other recipes!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

Lighter Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade

Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

This lemon raspberry smoothie with the prettiest pink color makes a refreshing, tangy snack.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Servings: 2 smoothies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. frozen raspberries
  • 1 c. 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. almond milk
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a small lemon
  • whipped cream, for topping

Instructions

  • Place raspberries, yogurt, honey, and among milk in a blender. Zest lemon directly into the blender, then juice the 1/2 lemon directly in as well, straining for seeds. Blend well and top with whipped cream, if desired.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

Last weekend, while I was out at the toddler cooking class I teach once a month, my husband got together with a group of guys for a Sausage Festival. I’m not being gross. They literally hung out for several hours making sausage. I kinda wish I could have been there, because this is one aspect of food production I have never personally experienced…and, though it’s not terribly glamorous, it’s pretty interesting! So before I dive into this tasty Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale–which, of course, uses the sausage from the Sausage Festival–here’s a little glimpse into the process.

Apparently it all starts with pork shoulder, cut into chunks.

Then the pork goes through a grinder…


And gets mixed with a blend of spices–in this case, parsley, garlic, fennel, and red pepper flakes.

 

And finally, the part everyone knows and loves: filling the casings with the meat to make links!


Pretty floral apron optional.


As far as I’m concerned, the best part about the Sausage Festival is that we now have homemade sausage to last until Kingdom Come. The guys made both links and bulk sausage, so I was only too happy to use some of the bulk kind up in this hearty, Mediterranean-style Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash.

It all starts with yourr basic giant yellow squash, baked and scraped to get those signature squiggly strings so reminiscent of pasta. In the meantime, you’ll brown some sausage and wilt some kale in a bit of garlic-infused olive oil on the stovetop. Toss these yummy goodies–plus some sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, and cannellini beans–with the squash strings. Refill the shells, top with a sprinkle of mozzarella, and bake one more time for the finished product!


As a one-dish meal, this Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash is full of nutrients from the kale, beans, tomatoes, and squash, makes a ton, and reheats well. I think you’ll enjoy it, even if you don’t have the luxury of homemade sausage.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

A hearty, mostly veggie dinner with flavors of the Mediterranean. Leave off the sausage for a vegetarian version!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 6 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 2 large spaghetti squash
  • 3/4 lb. mild sausage
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick both spaghetti squash all over with a fork and microwave each one for about a minute, to soften.
  • Slice squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place squash halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes.
  • While squash bakes, prepare the rest of the filling. In a large pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbled. Remove from the pan and place on paper-towel lined plate.
  • Using the grease left behind by the sausage (or supplementing with olive oil), saute garlic and kale until kale begins to wild and garlic begins to brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add cannellini beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan and cook an additional minute or two. Place mixture in a large mixing bowl, along with cooked sausage.
  • When squash has finished baking, remove from oven and scrape most of their contents into the mixing bowl, leaving a small border of flesh. (Be careful, squash will be hot!) Mix squash strings, sausage, and kale mixture thoroughly.
  • Divide the mixture among the four squash halves and sprinkle with mozzarella. Place back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted and filling is warmed through. One serving equals half of a squash boat.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Maple Pumpkin Pots de Creme

 

Who’s ready for Thanksgiving? Know what you’re making? Need a last-minute dessert? These Maple Pumpkin Pots de Creme could be the impressive after-dinner sweet your gathering needs.

I was chatting with a friend the other day and told her all I have to do for the big day is provide a salad for my husband’s family’s get-together. “How did you get off so easy?” she asked. I hadn’t thought much about it, but she’s right: since I don’t host Thanksgiving, I don’t have to worry about cleaning my house, don’t have to provide a slew of side dishes, and I certainly don’t have to get up in the wee hours to put a turkey in the oven.


Still, since I so enjoy cooking–and the many delicious flavors of the holiday season–I’m actually happy to make additional dishes for Thanksgiving. Though pots de creme (a velvety, creamy pudding, if you’re not familiar with the term) is traditionally made with chocolate (recipe here if you happen to need one!), this unique boasts the flavors of pumpkin and maple syrup. It’s not unlike a crustless pumpkin pie, just creamier and richer. And it’s surprisingly simple to make, with just seven easy ingredients.

So even though I don’t technically have to make a dessert for the big feast, I don’t mind if I do!

Maple Pumpkin Pots de Creme

A simple, creamy pumpkin custard sweetened with maple syrup!
Servings: 6 ramekins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 c. half and half
  • 3/4 c. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together half and half, maple syrup, and pumpkin. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • Slowly add hot pumpkin mixture to egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. For easy pouring, transfer to a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.
  • Set out six ramekins and divide pumpkin mixture between them. Place ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, then carefully pour hot water into the space between ramekins until it reaches halfway up their sides.
  • Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Chill at least two hours before serving. Dollop with whipped cream, if desired.

Notes

Adapted from Epicurious.

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

Remember those Arby’s commercials that ran awhile back promoting roast beef sandwiches on the premise that they were “Good Mood Food”? These ads always drove me nuts, because even before I was a nutritionist, I could tell you that eating processed red meat on a processed white bun slathered with overly sugary barbecue sauce was not going to be put me (or anyone else) in a good mood. In fact, the opposite is true.

Basically every time I eat fast food–no matter how tasty it sounded when I was really hungry–I always end up feeling super gross afterward. It’s one big reason why, in our family, fast food restaurants have become a last-resort destination reserved primarily for road trips. In the words of my husband, “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.” (Then again, I totally get that for some families, eating out at more expensive restaurants isn’t financially feasible. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have.)

Thankfully, the American people apparently also saw right through this ad campaign, naming it one of the worst of 2011. (Luv’s diapers’ “Poop! There is is!” topped this list–though I find this one kind of disgustingly charming, don’t you?) We all know that, except under certain circumstances like after a REALLY rotten day at work or a beloved cat dying, junk food leaves us full of regret, not good vibes. So thanks but no thanks on the feeble attempt at deception, Arby’s.

Healthy food, on the other hand, does actually have the power to lift our spirits. Research around the Mediterranean diet shows that this eating plan centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood is linked with lower risk of depression. And I for one can say that I feel far better about myself when I’ve made healthy food choices.

That’s where this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken comes in. My kids and I had this for dinner the other night as an easy, light meal while my husband was out of town. Often, without my husband to feed, I go easy on myself by heating up something frozen or getting pizza. But once this salad was made, I realized it had hardly taken any time and, with its bed of greens, lean chicken, crunchy almonds, pops of juicy pomegranate, and olive oil-based dressing, I actually felt really good about eating it. Plus, I had some awesome healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d say that’s the REAL Good Mood Food.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this shaved Brussels sprout salad could also make a nice healthy side dish (without the chicken, perhaps) for the main event. I’d love to hear how eating it makes YOU feel!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

A delicious, colorful salad that serves as a light dinner or hearty side dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 1/2 c. pomegranate arils
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded chicken
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon

Instructions

Make the salad:

  • In a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred Brussels sprouts. (I like to leave some larger bits for textural variety.) Pour into a large serving bowl.
  • Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.

Make the dressing:

  • In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Notes

Adapted from Spend With Pennies.

Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce

In the past, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid using tahini. It’s just so expensive, I thought, and what on earth would I do with an entire jar of sesame paste? Sure, I like hummus like any red-blooded Millennial, but I just couldn’t see making that much of it from scratch.

Little did I know that tahini can be used for other things besides hummus.

A few weeks ago I came across this helpful post on Babble that set me straight. Twenty-eight ways to use tahini that AREN’T hummus? The mystery! The intrigue! Turns out the sesame flavor and smooth texture of tahini lends itself to salad dressings, pestos, and even…brownies? While that particular suggestion may be going a bit too far for my tastes, the idea did broaden my horizons. When I ended up buying a jar at Trader Joe’s (for only around $3–far cheaper than I expected) it was with plenty of options on my radar.

This amazing all-purpose tahini sauce started its life as a dressing for a to-die-for roasted cauliflower salad over at Budget Bytes, but in my house, it’s turned into so much more. This week I put it on baked salmon, dipped pita in it, and have been seriously considering its possibilities as a sandwich spread. (With a bit of deli turkey, sprouts, and cucumber, it sounds like Mediterranean perfection.) I could see it working well on grilled chicken, as a veggie dip, or on falafel.

And, if you’re really adventurous, I suppose you could even use it in brownies.

Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce

A tangy sauce that works perfectly on fish, chicken, or just for dipping!
Servings: 4 (makes about 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. tahini
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • In a measuring cup, mix all ingredients until well combined. Keep covered in the refrigerator.

Notes

Adapted from Budget Bytes.